It’s been harder for me to skip around Salvation Army kettles this year because where I roam this non-profit seems to have brought out the dancers, the tuba players, and the occasional therapy dog to encourage me to part with my cash. And it has worked.
I advise a number of nonprofits on the art and science of fundraising and think a lot about the subject. Given the effects of Hurricane Sandy on my immediate and extended family and friends, the subject has become much more personal. Over Christmas, I listened to some family and friends complain about what they considered the virtual absence of the Red Cross in their neighborhoods. That most media outlets in the Greater New York area encouraged viewers to text $10 to the Red Cross for Sandy victims seemed to add salt to the wounds.
The Red Cross has been very public about its charter, contribution to Sandy victims, and how funds have been expended. Consumers are understandably nosey about how donated fund are used. I stopped contributing to United Way some years ago when I learned executives were flying first-class. Other charities felt donor backlash when they misappropriated 9/11 funds, using them to buy computers and cover various unrelated overhead costs.
The New York media seemed to pay considerable attention to college students and young adults who were very supportive of Sandy victims. These young adults would represent the Millennial generation, aged 20-35 years. I became interested in how and to what degree this smartphone generation engages with nonprofits.
“The Millennial Impact Report” prepared by the JCA Group served as a useful introduction. The study, which is based on online surveys, focus groups, as well as input from non-profit professionals, examined how to engage Millennials from a nonprofit perspective. The researchers caution that it is dangerous to overgeneralize about this demographic. They are not necessarily favorably predisposed to nonprofit brands that they have grown up with. The research suggests that Millennials tend to make decisions about charitable donations “in the moment” but are still keen to know about results. Early research citing the narcissism of this generation and its lacks of civic-mindedness does not seem to be supported by this study.
Sixty-five percent of the more than 6,000 surveyed preferred a website for receiving information about a charity, followed by social media and enewsletters. Respondents said that they looked for a strong call to action on websites and don’t like layers of descriptive content. They want to act quickly and connect easily.
Millennials are heavy users of mobile apps but don’t think apps are particularly useful for nonprofits. Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed had interacted with nonprofits on Facebook, largely through “liking” and “sharing” functions. However, this generation donates negligible amounts through social media. Use of video did not receive high marks except if it showed the organization at work. Only 28% had interacted with nonprofits via Twitter.
Researchers note that Millennials prefer to make donations online, in person or by mail, in that order. The study finds that the future for mobile giving faces an uncertain future. Only 15% of those surveyed report donating by smartphone. Participants indicated that the $10 limit for smartphone donations was problematic. Security is also an issue with mobile as it is with social media. Therefore, a website optimized for mobile is essential.
Seventy-five percent of those surveyed said they made a financial gift to charity in 2011. Forty-two percent gave to what inspired them in the moment. Their biggest Pet Peeve: “I don’t know how my gift will make a difference.”
Help is on the way. The Salvation Army, realizing that Millennials conduct business in a manner different than earlier generations, has added a Millennial position.
No news about the tuba players.